Do vestibular otolith organs participate in human orthostatic blood pressure control?

Donald E. Watenpaugh, Adriena V. Cothron, Stephen L. Wasmund, Wendy L. Wasmund, Robert Carter, Nicolette K. Muenter, Michael L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We hypothesized that vestibular otolith organ stimulation contributes to human orthostatic responses. Twelve subjects underwent three 60° upright tilts: (1) with the neck flexed from 0° to 30° relative to the body during 60° tilt, such that the head moved from horizontal to 90° above horizontal (0 to 1 Gz otolith stimulation); (2) with the head and body aligned, such that they tilted together to 60° (0 to 0.87 Gz otolith stimulation); and (3) with the neck flexed 30° relative to the body during supine conditions, and the neck then extended to -30° during 60° body tilting, such that the head remained at 30° above horizontal throughout body tilting (constant 0.5 Gz otolith stimulation). All three tilt procedures increased thoracic impedance, sympathetic nerve activity (N=8 of 12), arterial pressure, and heart rate relative to supine conditions (all P<0.04). Within the first 20 s of tilt, arterial pressure increased most obviously in the 0 to 1 Gz otolith condition. Thoracic impedance tended to increase more in otolith-constant conditions, but no dependent variable differed significantly between tilt conditions, and no significant time×tilt interactions emerged. Otolith inputs may contribute to early transient adjustments to orthostasis. However, lack of significant main effects of tilt condition and time×tilt interactions suggests that potential otolith effects on the variables we studied are relatively subtle and ephemeral, or that other mechanisms compensate for a lack of change in otolith input with orthostasis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-83
Number of pages7
JournalAutonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 30 Sep 2002


  • Gravity
  • Head-up tilt
  • Heart rate
  • Hemodynamics
  • Muscle sympathetic nerve activity


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